I have learned so many things in the past 48 days. But the #1 thing that I have learned: Be careful what you ask for.
I have been praying, almost since arriving, to find a way to serve others. I feel like everyone has been giving to me, and I want to give back. Well, that prayer was answered unexpectedly in the form of a church calling. In the LDS church, we have a "lay ministry". This means that everyone who serves, in any capacity-- from the prophet on down to the janitors (we clean our own buildings)-- are volunteers. Everyone is asked to do something to help out. We believe that these "callings" are from God, and are a way that we can serve Him; by serving others.
Well, I received a calling two weeks ago to serve as a counselor in the Young Women Presidency. Young Women is an organization for girls ages 12-18. They meet on Sundays for religious study, as well as at least one other day per week for activities. In Utah, the Young Women leaders consist of a president, two counselors, a secretary, and three teachers. There can be other specialists called as necessary.
But, need I remind you, we are not in Utah anymore. I was asked to serve with the Young Women President, Pamela. That's it--just Pamela and me. The Young Women organization has not been functioning at full strength in this ward for a while. How could it? This poor girl, Pamela (and I call her a girl, because she can't be more than 19 or 20 years old), has been all by herself for a year and a half. She works AND goes to school. She is barely out of Young Women herself!
Anyway, the bishopric thought that I could be helpful, and that I could somehow train Pamela. (Being from "Salt Lake City" somehow makes me wise in the ways of church leadership...they don't know me very well yet.) Unfortunately, being from Salt Lake does not make me a language expert. (Pamela doesn't speak English.) I accepted the calling, not really knowing how I would be of any use.
I began to pray extra hard for the language to come, and I have redoubled my efforts at studying my Portuguese lessons on the computer. I was doing everything I could, now I was ready for the blessings. I went to church that first Sunday feeling confident and ready. I was, however, soon deflated. I did not understand any of the lesson, and I was not even able to form words into a simple sentence to introduce myself to Pamela. Instead, I pointed at myself and stated my name....
(Me Kathy.... You Pamela...Grunt...Grunt)
I felt discouraged and felt the tears welling up. Then I remembered a blessing that I was given in relation to this calling; that I would have courage. After the lesson, I interrupted the chatter to invite the girls to an activity at my house for that Thursday night. They haven't been having week-night activities because of Pamela's extremely busy schedule. I didn't think anyone would come. They came! They even seemed excited to come! We had a great time playing get-to-know-you games. Marissa and I tried to speak in Portuguese. I discovered that one of the girls can speak English very well (I suspect her sister can, too). And, when things got really desperate, we yelled for Tom to translate. It was a great evening, and we planned to meet at my house the following week at the same time. This past Sunday, another counselor, Alessandra, was called. She doesn't speak English, but we are already Facebook friends, and I know we will become great friends in "real" life. The language is just a tiny barrier.
We have been experiencing an unseasonably warm spring here. And by "unseasonably warm", I mean "hotter than blazes"! It was so unbearably hot that Marissa and I were making daily jaunts down to the pool for "PE". (Now our hair is green.--What do they put in pool water here?!) Anyway, we were all praying for cooler temperatures. I mean--if this is the end of winter/beginning of spring--how will we survive summer?!
Finally, the clouds came, and the temperatures cooled slightly. We even got a cool breeze at night--sweet relief! Why do I need to be careful what I wish for in this circumstance, you ask? Well, perhaps you will recall that our hot water heater is solar powered. We had overcast skies for 3 days. Do you see where I am going with this? No sun = no solar power = no hot water. By the third day, we had used up all of our hot water reserves. This happened to be the day that the skies opened up to an all-day torrential downpour. The temperatures dipped dramatically--probably 50 degrees. This would have been a fantastic day for a good long soak in our giant tub. But, I settled for a quick, cold shower, trying to keep in mind, while darting in and out of the icy stream, the oppressive heatwave that we had just experienced, and MY prayers for cooler temperatures. (We did find out that we have a back-up electric water heater...only problem is...it's broken.)
Good things can come from asking, too. I have been whining about all of the things I miss from back home. And now, the packages have begun to arrive!
I am sorely tempted to hoard this stash in my room, but I promise I will share with the rest of the family. Marissa did ask what we used the chocolate chips for when she saw that one of the bags was open. (I just gave her my innocent blank stare.)
These packages must have cost a fortune! And, while we LOVE these treasures from home, we CHERISH even more the care and concern that was packed along with each item. We feel your love, your support, and your prayers...and we thank you!